The role of standards in demonstrating conformity to requirements

Standards play an important role in the design and manufacture of products, testing products, ensuring their safety, and assessing their conformity to requirements.

Standards are normative documents by a recognised organisation, such as SFS, that provide common guidelines for procedures. Standards are recommendations in nature, and in principle, their use is voluntary. The requirements provided for in acts and decrees are mandatory, meaning that they must be followed.

The manufacturer or importer can use standards to demonstrate that the requirements set in regulations for the products are fulfilled. The authorities use standards to help with assessing whether a product or service reaches the level of safety set by legislation. In some sectors, the use of standards is mandatory.

Standards

  • increase the compatibility and safety of products and services
  • protect consumers and the environment
  • make domestic and international trade easier.

Harmonised standards related to products and services

The product legislation of the EU sets essential requirements related to safety, health and the environment on certain product groups. In order to make the manufacturing of compliant products easier and to ensure that the requirements of the EU legislation are fulfilled, European or harmonised standards are drawn up, by order of the EU. A harmonised standard is a standard drawn up by a European standardisation organisation that has been confirmed upon the request of the European Commission in order to apply the EU product legislation. Information on the harmonised standards is published in the EU Official Journal, separately for each directive.

When products conform to harmonised standards, they are considered to fulfil the essential requirements of the EU legislation on the product.

Harmonised standards are usually optional, meaning that products can also be designed and manufactured in a way that does not conform to the standards. However, in that case the manufacturer is obliged to demonstrate in another way that their products fulfil the essential requirements of the EU legislation. In contrast to the other harmonised standards, the standards related to the Construction Products Regulation are mandatory.

The following product groups, among others, have harmonised standards:

  • personal protective equipment
  • lifts
  • gas equipment
  • machinery
  • toys
  • measuring instruments
  • pressure equipment
  • packaging
  • construction products
  • electrical appliances

Who creates the standards?

European standards are developed openly through volunteer work in cooperation between experts from different countries. Experts from all aspects of the society, such as trade and industry, research institutes, consumers’ and citizens’ organisations, higher education establishments and the public administration participate in drawing up the standards. The Finnish Standards Association SFS guides and coordinates standardisation in Finland.

The membership of the national standardisation team is open to everyone who is interested in following the standardisation in their field and influence the content of standards.

What do the letters in front of the standard mean?

The letter combinations in front of the standard state which organisation has confirmed the standard. A standard confirmed in Finland has the identifier SFS, a standard approved by a European standardisation organisation has the identifier EN, and an internationally confirmed standard has the identifiers ISO and IEC. For example, the identifier SFS-EN-ISO in a standard states that it has been prepared through international cooperation and confirmed as a national standard in Finland.

Where can I find standards?

Anyone can purchase standards. In Finland, copies of the standards can be bought from the Finnish Standards Association SFS.

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